Social gradient in the receipt of medication for attention deficit hyper activity disorder in children and young people: A cross-sectional study in Sheffield

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by attention and hyperactivity-impulsivity that affects people throughout the life course.  It is known that a social gradient exists in the prevalence of ADHD.  Studies in other countries have shown that social gradients also exist in the receipt of medication for ADHD.

We used multivariate logistic regression modelling to investigate whether socio-economic position (SEP) could explain variation in receipt of medication for ADHD in children and young people (CYP) in the UK.  We collected data from 1354 children and young people with ADHD in Sheffield.  Variables included were age, sex, religion, ethnicity, comorbidities, and index of multiple deprivation (IMD) rank (derived from home postcode).

Our results showed a social gradient in the receipt of medication for ADHD (p < 0.01), with an increase of deprivation rank of 1000 conferring a 3% decrease in the odds of receiving medication for ADHD (odds ratio 0.97, 95% CI 0.95 to 0.99); i.e. CYP from more less deprived backgrounds are less likely to receive medication for ADHD.

We illustrated a social gradient in receipt of medication for ADHD, which has not been examined or noted in UK settings before. We suggest its presence should alert clinicians to the additional vulnerability conferred to CYP with ADHD by a low SEP.  The existence of a social gradient in ADHD also adds further weight to the broader argument for tackling the social determinants of health.